The snowfield on Mt. Timpanogus is a vast elegant nearly-vertical white slope that Vs into a tiny mountain lake. Islands of ice extend from the shore and drift in the water even in late July. A small cliff overlooks a six foot deep pool where chunks of ice dot the emerald water.
Stripping down to their underwear, the teenage boys started the madness. Jostling and daring each other until they leapt into the pool, releasing a cry of pain and then a shout of exhilaration as they emerged dripping and triumphant.
We watched and laughed and envied just a bit the luxury of boyhood– their freedom to remove clothes and take silly risks. Our long garments and sense of propriety weighing us to the shore.
Murmuring softly, we exchanged glances, then words. Like pilgrims on hallowed ground, we removed our socks and shoes, stood on the ledge– mother, sister, cousin, aunt, friends– clasped hands and jumped…
Water by it’s very nature, it the most destructive and constructive force on earth. Tsunamis destroy entire cities, backyard swimming pools steal toddler’s lives, an overflowing river can tear a home from it’s foundation, gnashing and splintering with broad indifference.
And yet, no food would grow without water, nor my flowers, and without great tumblerfuls of it every day I would wither and die. Our homes and bodies would be filthy without it’s cleansing virtues; no waves would crash upon the ocean shores.
The irony of leaping into an icy pool in the midst of a hike to celebrate the life of a boy who had drowned wasn’t lost on any of us, but no one spoke of it. Rather, we cried and laughed and embraced, sat down to brush off our feet and replace our shoes.
Still shivering and dripping, we traversed the rocky ridge, descended through dappled forests, trailed our fingers across meadows of wildflowers, submerged in joy.
Earth is not outside heaven; it is heaven’s workshop, heaven’s womb. –Peter Kreeft